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Chapter 3

SOCI-225 Chapter Notes - Chapter 3: Actus Reus, Regulatory Offence, Mens Rea

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Canadian Criminal Laws
A crime consists of a prohibition against certain conduct and penal sanctions such as
imprisonment, fines, probation or community service, to name a few. Under the terms of the
Canadian Constitution, the Parliament of Canada has the exclusive authority to enact criminal
law and procedures relating to criminal matters. That is, there are differences between “true
crimes” that fall under the Criminal Code of Canada and regulatory offences, which are enacted
at the discretion of each of the provinces. Regulatory offences are also known as quasi-criminal
(quasi is translated to mean “halfway” and is concerned with the orderly regulation of activity).
Therefore, crimes such as assault, break and enter, and theft are crimes within the Criminal Code
and enacted by the federal government. Laws regulating behaviour around, for example, driving,
hunting, or fishing are quasi-criminal and are enacted by each province separately.
This module is concerned with discussing “true crimes,” which contravene the Criminal Code of
Canada. For one to be convicted of a crime in a Canadian court of law, the Crown must first
prove certain elements are present: namely, actus reus and mens rea.
Actus Reus
Actus reus roughly translates from Latin into “guilty act” and has three sub-components. To
better understand actus reus, let’s use the example of assault. The Crown must prove that the
accused was the person who applied force to the victim (for example, conduct). Second, the
Crown must prove that these actions were unwanted by the victim (for example, circumstances).
Third, the Crown must prove that the application of force caused harm (for example,
consequences). (Certain exceptions to this division of the actus reus into these three elements are
further discussed on page 77 of your text.)
Mens Rea
Mens rea roughly translates into “guilty mind.” That is, it refers to the mental component of a
crime and functions to protect those who are unable to understand the consequences of their acts.
There are two very distinct types of mens rea requirements in Canadian Criminal law: subjective
and objective.
Subjective Mens Rea
Subjective mens rea is based on the idea that persons will not be convicted of an offence unless
deliberately intended to bring about the consequences of an act (for example, first-degree
murder as opposed to second degree)
realized that their behaviour would cause harm but recklessly continued with their behaviour
were wilfully blind in that they deliberately closed their minds to the obvious criminality of their
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